Chicken bones and cranberries

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The familiars

At home Priscilla pulled Stella out of the bag and put her into a cage. The witch had that cage for a long time; in it she usually kept rabbits and chickens that she bought (and stole) at the market from time to time. The cage was quite large and heavy, dusty, and smelled like dirt. It was made of wood and locked on the outside with a rusty key. Priscilla locked the little dog, put the key into the pocket of her apron and slammed her tea kettle onto the old brick stove that once belonged to the forest ranger.
Philip was bird hunting in the woods. The beautiful gray Russian cat, a familiar that would make any witch very proud, smelled the smoke coming out of the cabin’s chimney and hurried home to see Priscilla. The cat carried himself with a certain dignity; he never begged for food, and Priscilla never gave him any. Philip had to hunt field mice and birds to survive in the forest, but he was very loyal to the witch for his own reason.
Abandoned by his owners, four months old kitten had one of his legs broken by the butcher of the Bluebells market, who thought Philip was stealing from him. Priscilla was selling her herbs on the market that day too. She picked the wounded kitten up and carried him to her cabin, where she healed the broken bone first, and then she let him go. The kitten came right back to the door. She put him out again. But he was back again shortly. After he returned for the third time, the witch named him Philip and made a bed for him – a straw basket lined with an old rag. Since then he was the witch’s official familiar and never went very far from the cabin.
Rochester, the large raven with the bill of steal, immaculate[1] feather coat that shone mountain-blue in the sun, and evil shiny black eyes, was the other familiar, Priscilla’s first and foremost. He lived in the forest long before Priscilla moved into the abandoned ranger’s cabin. As soon as the witch made herself comfortable in the cabin, the raven began to visit her daily. Every morning he sat on the pine tree right outside the Priscilla’s cabin and cried twice, that was his special code for the witch. She understood that and usually came out with food leftovers, if there were any. She named him Rochester. Somewhere in the back of her memory lingered a vague shadow of another Rochester, the witch’s father.
Out of the two loyal familiars, the bird was Priscilla’s definite favorite, but the cat loved her more. Now they both got inside the house through the front door that was thoughtfully opened for them. First came the cat, quietly gliding inside on his elegant blue paws; then flew in the raven, dropping a large shiny feather right by the entrance.
“For that I thank you,” said Priscilla to Rochester, picking up the feather. She collected these feathers, burned them and mixed the ashes with swamp water to make the witch ink, known for its exceptional strength in wish spells. “Do not mention it,” replied the bird, and then he saw Stella in the cage. “Anything delicious?” he asked and flew right to the cage. Philip too approached the cage and sat right by it.
“No. Not for you. I have yet to sacrifice it to the idol of shape shifting,” replied the witch, annoyed. “This is the dog that recognized me as a witch in disguise, now I need to feed it to the idol.”
“And why is that?” asked Philip, inquisitively[2]. “Because if I will not, I will never be able to look like a regular human again,” explained the witch honestly. “I suspect revenge,” supposed Rochester.
“Yes, smarty-pants, it is about revenge, too. I actually enjoyed looking good,” admitted the witch and angrily kicked a laced basket. “Can we eat the leftovers?” wondered Rochester and pecked the cage; he loved meat. Poor Stella shivered in horror. “Get away from my dog!” shrieked Priscilla, sounding awfully like a bat again. Insulted, Rochester flew off the table and back outside.
“Well, you can have the bones, maybe,” growled Priscilla. She hated offending the raven.



[1] Immaculate: (in this context) evenly colored without spots; perfect.

[2] Inquisitively: curiously, with keen interest.

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